MINT CON­DI­TION

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD, ANNA KING SHAHAB -

Things rolled up in roti have be­come aw­fully fash­ion­able. I could be surly and claim not to as­cribe to such trendy stuff, but as far as I’m con­cerned, I’d de­mol­ish just about any­thing wrapped in roti. My friend Gi­apo wraps ice­cream in the stuff and, rather like ev­ery­thing that he does, it’s a rev­e­la­tion (if you’re ever in Auck­land by the way, visit his ice­cream store, even if you do noth­ing else – you’ll thank me for it). Any­way, I di­gress.

My pen­chant for roti dates back to univer­sity days when a cer­tain ar­chi­tect friend in­tro­duced me to what is still the best roti I’ve ever eaten, in a wee haunt near the de­sign school. We grew hap­pily, quite fes­tively plump on the stuff. I dream of it still. So adding other treats is a more nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for me. Like most of what I make, this is a guide­line. Grilled prawns in a sim­i­lar mix­ture is very good.

So is a good hunk of lamb, beef or pork. You may want to get hold of some Chi­nese bar­be­cued pork and use that in­stead. As al­ways, use your in­stinct.

By all means, get­ting hold of some frozen roti or paratha bread is per­fectly ac­cept­able and I won’t judge you at all for do­ing so. There are plenty of ex­cel­lent brands in In­dian su­per­mar­kets – just brush in a lit­tle but­ter and fry as you would with the ones be­low.

Oh, and get a juli­enne peeler if you don’t al­ready have one. It’s right up there in my pan­theon of culi­nary kit.

ROTI ROLLS

Prep time: 25 mins Cook time: 10 mins Serves: 4, gen­er­ously

Roti (see recipe, right)

6 chicken thighs, deboned

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 limes

4 tbsp sa­tay sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp mirin or sim­i­lar

2 large car­rots, juli­enned

Sev­eral large hand­fuls of bean sprouts Hand­ful of co­rian­der, roughly chopped

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Sort the roti first, and keep warm while you do the other stuff.

Com­bine the chicken thighs with the soy sauce, zest and juice from one lime, and half the sa­tay sauce. Leave to mari­nade if you have time, oth­er­wise, get a hot grill (bar­be­cue, ideally), or pan go­ing.

Quickly grill the chicken on both sides un­til well-caramelised, cooked through, and a bit crispy. Leave to rest for sev­eral min­utes while you put to­gether ev­ery­thing else.

Com­bine the juice and zest from the sec­ond lime with the sesame oil and mirin. Toss to­gether the juli­enned car­rot, bean sprouts, chopped co­rian­der and sesame seeds, and dress with the lime mix­ture.

Slice the chicken and ar­range on a large plat­ter with the roti, dressed salad and re­main­ing sa­tay sauce. Serve im­me­di­ately, run­ning a smear of sa­tay on each roti, adding a bit of salad and a few bits of chicken down the mid­dle be­fore rolling up and de­vour­ing.

Roti isn’t much of a jump from just about ev­ery other va­ri­ety of flat­bread in the world – but of course with about as much but­ter as there is dough. Its vari­a­tions are vast. Be gen­er­ous with the but­ter – it will make the eat­ing of it so much more grat­i­fy­ing. I will not hear any­thing against this; while

I wouldn’t rec­om­mend eat­ing roti for ev­ery meal, nor would I cheese­cake, so there.

Make sure you use good flour – none of that bleached muck – it will make all the dif­fer­ence.

ROTI

Prep time: 30 mins Cook time: 20 mins Serves: 4-6

2 cups good flour

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp melted but­ter

A lit­tle more but­ter, for fry­ing A lit­tle more flour

Com­bine the flour and salt. Whisk in the melted but­ter to cre­ate a crumbly mix­ture, then mix in enough water to cre­ate a smooth, elas­tic dough.

Di­vide into six or 12 equal-sized balls, de­pend­ing on how big you want the roti. Roll each one out into a cir­cle as thinly as you can be both­ered, then brush with but­ter, roll up, coil up, and then flat­ten and roll out into an­other rea­son­ably thin round. Re­peat un­til you are done. Brush each roti on both sides with but­ter and dust in a minute amount of flour.

Heat a heavy fry­ing pan to a fairly high tem­per­a­ture. Add a scant amount of but­ter, just enough to grease the pan, then fry each roti on both sides un­til crisp and nicely golden brown.

I may not have in­her­ited my par­ents’ green fin­gers, but at least there’s mint. It can be re­lied on to thrive un­der my ne­glect.

As long as I don’t try to con­trol it or pam­per it in any way, it con­tin­ues to turn out downy, palm-sized leaves, es­pe­cially at this time of year. Of course, there are many va­ri­eties of mint. Two have gone ba­nanas in my gar­den: Viet­namese mint, and spearmint. Here I’m re­fer­ring to spearmint, which looks a lot like pep­per­mint but has a much milder, sweeter taste with a frac­tion of the men­thol con­tent.

I’m not a fan of mint sauce (how un­pa­tri­otic) so I find other ways to make a small dent in the bounty. Un­doubt­edly the thing I do most of­ten is pluck a hand­fuls of leaves, check­ing them for cater­pil­lars and cat hairs (our cat likes to nap in beds of mint, thyme or jas­mine) and sac­ri­fice them un­der just-off-the-boil water. I haven’t yet made it to Morocco, but the smell of mint tea al­ways takes me back to the steep streets of Granada, where my hus­band’s Ara­bic went much fur­ther than my rudi­men­tary Span­ish. Cold win­ter days were spent traips­ing around the haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful Al­ham­bra, its ghosts fol­low­ing us down the steep hill in a whirl of rusty leaves un­til we’d hike up a rick­ety stair­case into the refuge of a kilim-strewn, lamp-lit Moroc­can tea house, the first sip of mint tea bring­ing with it a sense of bal­ance and calm.

Con­tin­u­ing on a Mediter­ranean trail, chopped mint re­leases a burst of fresh­ness into yo­ghurt sauce, tab­bouleh and lamb kof­tas. And when wa­ter­melon sea­son fi­nally set­tles in, my mint is on high ro­tate mak­ing one of my favourite sal­ads: cubes of flesh-red wa­ter­melon with crum­bled feta, thinly sliced red onion and chopped mint, dressed sim­ply in le­mon juice and olive oil with a lit­tle black pep­per and sea salt.

Pep­per­mint, with its stronger flavour, is bet­ter for bak­ing with, but spearmint is still a wor­thy ad­di­tion: I’m a big fan of Jor­dan Ron­del’s Fresh Mint Cho­co­late Chip Cook­ies, and home­made ice­cream spiked with fresh mint and shards of dark cho­co­late is a sim­ple, classy dessert to serve guests.

Of course it’s es­sen­tial in mo­ji­tos, but it’s highly ir­ri­tat­ing that lime sea­son hits when the mint in my gar­den is rather scrappy. Right now I’m thank­ful for the time I took to freeze litres of lime juice a few months ago.

When my le­mon tree is adorned in ki­los of gold, how­ever, the mint is beg­ging to be picked. I make a sugar syrup in­fused with mint leaves then blend it with plenty of ice and le­mon juice. Strain the frothy mix­ture into tall glasses for the per­fect post-gar­den­ing (I do try, I’m just not a nat­u­ral) re­fresher.

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